Academic to convey lessons of bushfires

Academic to convey lessons of bushfires

06 March 2009

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Australia — A Canberra academic will address a world conference in Canada on the national capital’s long-term recovery from its disastrous 2003 bushfires.

Australian Catholic University acting campus dean Professor Peter Camilleri has been asked to present the results of a study into Canberra’s post-bushfires recovery at the World Congress on Disaster and Emergency Medicine in Vancouver in May.

He will be part of a symposium examining the social and psychological impacts of deadly bushfires in Canberra in 2003 and Greece in 2007.

Health professionals from around the globe will attend the congress to help them prepare for large-scale medical emergencies and other disasters.

In 2007, Professor Camilleri and a team of other Canberra researchers issued a study commissioned by Emergency Management Australia called Recovering from the 2003 bushfires: A work in progress, which will form the basis of his presentation.

Professor Camilleri said his team’s research found as many as one in five victims of the Canberra bushfires were still distressed more than three years after the disaster.

”It has implications when setting up a recovery model, for how long people will need assistance,” he said.

Professor Camilleri said the one-stop Recovery Centre which post-fires offered people help on everything from building advice to psychiatric support was ”extraordinarily important”.

So, too, were information and communication.

The media continuing to cover the recovery of residents, ”presenting people’s stories”, helped in the process.

More than anything, it was critical for residents to be kept in the loop on the progress of all aspects of the rebuilding of their communities, including formal investigations.

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